Turkeys in Congress

What's the point of condemning dead people?

Concentrating wholeheartedly on the many urgent and pressing problems before us in the world, our nation's House Committee on Foreign Affairs has... passed a resolution condemning the Turkish mass killings of Armenians in 1915-17, calling it genocide.

According to the dictionary, genocide is "the deliberate and systematic extermination of a national, racial, political, or cultural group."

Was it the intent of the Ottoman Turkish government to exterminate the Armenians?  Well, we can't very well ask them, now can we?  Everyone who participated in the violence is six feet under.  In most cases, they've been stone cold for decades.

You might, possibly, be able to find one or two innocent victims who were babes in arms at the time, and who surely don't remember it.  But at this late date, a scrap of paper is going to accomplish not the slightest whit of good for those who suffered.

It may very well cause a great deal of suffering for many who are alive today, however.  Turkey has been one of the closest allies of the United States for half a century.  It stood by us through the Cold War.  It has taken our side in many disputes in the Middle East, despite being overwhelmingly Muslim.  The world situation being what it is, isn't it a useful thing to have a Muslim friend?

And Turkey is unique, in that for many years, the friendship has gone deeper than the almighty dollar or the well-connected sheik.  The common Turk-on-the-street has had a general affection for the United States, in marked contrast to the situation with other Muslim "allies", such as Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Jordan.

Now, however, the Turk-on-the-street is furious, and his freely elected government - a rather rare thing in that part of the world, let us note - is quite rightly responding to the voters.  The Turkish ambassador has been recalled for consultations, which is diplomat-speak for "We are really, really, really pissed off, and though we aren't going to declare war on you today, we rather feel like it at the moment."

Of course, there isn't going to be a declared war between Turkey and the United States, at least not on purpose.  But things are dicier than they may appear.  The Turks have a long-running quarrel with the Kurds in their eastern mountains - whose cousin Kurds also happen to rule the only part of Iraq which has anything resembling stability and good governance.

The Kurds in Turkey have been fighting for autonomy for years (including by means of terrorism).  The Turks have responded with the barrel of a gun.  Now that an independent-in-all-but-name Kurdistan is right next door, the Turkish Kurds have developed the habit of whacking the Turkish army in the nose, then scooting back across the border into northern Iraq.

Only the close friendship between Turkey and the United States has kept the Turkish army from pursuing these rebels across the border, bombing their bases, and generally wreaking havoc in Kurdistan.  In effect, we have two groups who are good friends of ours, but who hate each other, and we are attempting to hold the scruffs of their necks so as to keep them off each other.

And now we kick one of them in the seat of the pants.  For what?  To make a statement about something that happened a century ago.

Have we learned nothing from the collapse of Yugoslavia?  The massacres at Srebrenica and elsewhere had their origin in feuds going back a thousand years.  And they've been keeping the feuds warm ever since.  This is insane!

It is high time for a fundamental international legal doctrine, to underwrite our policies both foreign and domestic, and enforced in all negotiations as much as possible, as follows:

A statute of limitations is hereby established on all disagreements, arguments, conflicts, genocides, violations of civil rights, and anger of any and all kinds.  If nobody is alive today who participated in it, then we don't care, you shouldn't either, and we don't want to hear about it.

After World War 2, the world pursued the Nazi killers, and ferreted concentration camp guards out from wherever they hid across the world.  Why?  To bring them to justice for their deeds.  That is, to punish the killers for what they did.  Goering hanged, Adolf Eichmann executed, and on down the list.

But today, we are no longer pursuing Nazi SS officers.  They're all dead.

So are the Holocaust survivors, save a handful of elderly folks who will surely pass on in the next few years.  There is no justice left to be done; they all, both good and evil, stand before God for His final and binding ruling.

Should Germany and Israel be in conflict today as the result of the Holocaust?  Of course not!  Justice has been done as well as it can be, and most importantly, everyone involved is dead.  It's over.  It's done.  There is no more, and nothing that can be done.

Now, we ought not forget the Holocaust; we ought to learn its lessons, and do what we can to prevent it from happening again in the future.  But as far as individual justice is concerned, that time is past.

Is there a shortage of conflict in the world today, that we need to dredge up past wrongs?  Are we now so very clean, everything is so squeaky perfect, that we have a need to go digging around in the history books for wrongs to right?

It is time for those who make it their business to drag skeletons out of closets, to be shouted down.

All the American slaveholders are dead.  So are all the slaves.

The Armenian survivors are as dead as the victims, and so are their persecutors.

So are the Nazis and their victims; Peron and his; General Custer, his peers, and his opponents; Genghis Khan and his hordes; Torquemada and his Spanish Inquisition; and Cain, who first murdered his brother.  There's nothing we can do for any of them.

Let's move on, and concentrate on the wrongs of today.  That should keep us busy for quite some time to come.

Petrarch is a contributing editor for Scragged.  Read other Scragged.com articles by Petrarch or other articles on Politics.
Reader Comments
Curious -- you think that the facts of history should be rewritten to match the needs of the current moment? If what happened in Turkey was a genocide, then call it that. If the Turks have a problem with reality, they are unstable allies at best.

If it wasn't a genocide, it shouldn't be labeled as such, but if it was...

I think we engage in a dangerous game when we attempt the impossible task of editing history to match the current political climate. Where do you draw the line on what facts should not be ignored or covered up?

August 11, 2009 10:43 AM
Ah -- and we will see, in the coming decades, just what Israel thinks of your proposed "statute of limitations". I'm ready to place my bet on how they'll come down.
August 11, 2009 10:45 AM
Add Your Comment...
4000 characters remaining
Loading question...